17 November 2011

Book Review: Shock 1 by Richard Matheson

Shock 1Shock 1 by Richard Matheson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shock I, includes 13 tales of thrill and terror with a promise of bad things to come. The title (shock) and the number (13) have a lot to do with it, but mainly, Richard Matheson's writing style brought me over.
The stories are combination science fiction and horror with a touch of offbeat to each one of them. The word paranoia kept flashing in my head as I read this book. Except for one story of actual paranoia, the rest are of the creative type that make a great dark fiction base.
These stories were written in the 50's and some have even become (with some adaptation) part of Masters of Horror and The Twilight Zone if I'm not mistaken.
Here's a bit about each story.
1. Children of Noah: A good reason why speeding is bad, especially if through a small town in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. My favorite of the bunch.
2. Lemmings: Short but invokes thinking. I liked it to some extinct, but considering its shortness, I can't dislike it either. It did its job and finished quick :-)
3. The Splendid Source: what's the source of all dirty jokes? I wasn't impressed with this story, perhaps because it didn't thrill nor terrify me. This one felt out of place in this collection.
4. Long Distance Call: Paranoia in its element. Who's to say if the crippled old lady isn't paranoid about those phone calls? My money is on her being as sane as me.
5. Mantage: It's something we all wish for; the fast forward of the stale periods in our lives. But what happens if the whole lifespan is skipped through? Where would you be living if that were the case?
6. One for the Books: A janitor wakes up one day speaking fluent French, after that knowledge just pours in. This science fiction nugget has been adapted for television (not sure when or how, but I know I've seen it.) The janitor has a bad feeling about all that knowledge, and he's right to be worried.
7. The Holiday Man: This story had potential. It was about a man who poses as someone who works in marketing while his job involved something else altogether. Even though I liked it, I felt it lacked something. Not sure what.
8. Dance of The Dead: Was adapted for a Masters of Horror episode. Sorry to say it, but the adaptation worked better for me…maybe because the twist at the end of the dance made the story more personal. However, that episode wouldn't exist without this story.
9. Legion of Plotters: Ultimate paranoia trip. Picture this; every annoying incident that ever happened in your life, wasn't a coincidence…it was planned.
10. The Edge: A cute little story with a doppelganger concept. I can't recall a specific episode, but this one was adapted for the Twilight Zone.
11. The Creeping Terror: What would happen if Los Angeles took over the country (and eventually maybe the world as well)? I couldn't feel anything toward this story, I just wanted it to end. The idea was great, the delivery was too stiff, too scientific in its approach.
12. Death Ship: Three spacemen find their dead bodies on an alien planet. The question isn't how they got there, the question is: How will each one of them react to that discovery?
13. The Distributor: People live in a peaceful neighborhood where they should have been suspicious of each other, but aren't…until Theodore arrives. My only complain in this story is that it moved too fast with lots of names to remember. If you're reading it, keep track of the names to make sense of the action, because Theodore is creative.

By large, Shock 1 is a Richard Matheson classic, one that shouldn't be missed. For one thing, reading them in 2011 brings a sense of déjà vu by thinking back on how the 'then' future has evolved and by remembering the stories' adaptations.
In few years, I might read the book again, this is how strongly it hit me. Prefect buildup of settings, emotions, and way of thinking; each character sounds and feels real. End of the day, that's what a good piece of fiction is all about.

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